POLITICS

Support For Defense Spending Reaches Highest Point Since 9/11

It's been on the rise for five years now.

Thirty-five percent of Americans favor increased defense spending, reaching the highest level of support since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, according to a Pew report released Thursday. 

The last time support for defense spending was this high was in the aftermath of the terror attacks in New York and Washington, when 50 percent of Americans were in favor of increased spending. 

While support for more defense spending has increased across party lines, it's mainly Republicans who feel strongly about it.  

About 6 in 10 Republicans favor more spending, a 24-point jump since 2014. By contrast, just 20 percent of Democrats and 31 percent of independents say they want to increase spending.

The contrasting views on defense spending reflect what Republicans and Democrats perceive as global threats. 

Republicans view the self-described Islamic State militant group as the greatest threat to the U.S., followed by cyberattacks and refugees. Democrats, meanwhile, see climate change as the top threat, followed by ISIS and cyberattacks. 

Republicans are overall more likely than Democrats to perceive ISIS, refugees, "China's emergence as a world power," cyberattacks, "tensions with Russia" and global economic instability as major threats. Democrats, on the other hand, are more likely than Republicans to see climate change and infectious disease as major threats.

Donald Trump, the presumptive Republican nominee for president, has pointed to the threat of ISIS to justify several of his proposals, including a temporary ban on Muslims entering the U.S. and a ban on Syrian refugees. He has also described China and Russia as growing threats and called the U.S. "weak and ineffective" for not waterboarding suspected terrorists. Trump has proposed higher levels of defense spending as a way to deal with these threats.

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) has called climate change the greatest global threat, while former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, the Democratic front-runner for president, has pointed to ISIS as well as climate change as major national challenges. Sanders has called for cuts to defense spending, while Clinton has called for an examination of the spending. 

It's no surprise, then, that 66 percent of Trump supporters favor a defense spending hike. Sanders and Clinton supporters are far more likely to favor cuts to spending, respectively, by 43 percent and 25 percent. 

And while 53 percent of Americans think the U.S. has become less powerful, 72 percent expressed confidence in the country's defense apparatus, calling the U.S. the world's leading military power. 

Pew surveyed 2008 U.S. adults using live interviews over landlines and cell phones, April 12-19. 

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